As any Cowboys fan knows by now, the defense is going to be missing some players in September due to suspensions. Right now, two players have confirmed bans and two more are facing likely penalties. How might these suspensions impact the Cowboys roster decisions between now and Week One?
Here is a quick rundown of what we know right now regarding these suspensions:
- David Irving, DL - Suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Will return Week 5.
- Damontre Moore, DE - Suspended two games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Will return Week 3.
- Nolan Carroll, CB - Facing a likely two-game ban for a DWI arrest in May.
- Damien Wilson, LB - Will almost surely be disciplined under the personal conduct policy for his arrest on assault charges earlier this month. Wilson's situation is by far the cloudiest and hard to predict.
Dallas will still have a 53-man roster even without these players. That means some of our current training camp participants should make the team for at least a few weeks. Who stands to benefit from this situation?
Clearly, the defensive line has taken the biggest hit with both Irving and Moore out. They still have eight guys to work with; DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton at defensive end, and then Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric THornton, and Stephen Paea at tackle. That's certainly enough to get through a few games. Keep in mind that linebacker Kyle Wilber can also play some defensive end.
Dallas could use the roster spots on some extra depth and rotation pieces. Prospects Lenny Jones and Lewis Neal have had some positive reports at defensive end. There are also seventh-round picks Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell to consider at defensive tackle. The Cowboys could give any of these guys some extra weeks on the roster while waiting for Irving and Moore to come back.
However, with eight guys still in play and Wilber as an emergency option, Dallas could use those roster spots elsewhere. They don't have to stick to nine or ten defensive linemen as if satisfying a quota; the decisions should come down to talent and ability to contribute.
At cornerback, Nolan Carroll's expected absence will likely be filled by second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie. Fellow rookie Jourdan Lewis should also be in the mix, likely rotating in and perhaps even passing Awuzie before we get to Week One. The Cowboys shouldn't have to make any moves to cover themselves at the top of the CB depth chart.
Like with the defensive line, the effect of Carroll's suspension will be felt at the bottom of the roster. Rookie Marquez White will almost certainly make the team now, if he wasn't already. The Cowboys can at least postpone making a decision on him for a few weeks if they have any thoughts of trying to get him to the practice squad.
The major beneficiary could be Leon McFadden. The former third-round pick in 2013 played in nine games for Dallas last year due to injuries with Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. With Nolan Carroll gone, McFadden could stick around a player with league experience and some familiarity in the Cowboys system. It may not last beyond a couple of weeks, but it's better than nothing.
We may have already seen the major fallout of the Damien Wilson incident with the return of veteran Justin Durant. Dallas re-signed the 31-year-old linebacker just a few weeks after Wilson's arrest.
Durant is capable of playing all three positions and could start at Wilson's expected role of SAM linebacker. If someone else gets that job, Durant provides valuable depth anywhere you need him.
Given its severity and recency, Wilson's case and any NFL investigation may not be resolved by the start of the season. It's possible that Damien will be with the team in Week One but then wind up suspended sometime during the year. It could even drag out into next offseason and a suspension in 2018.
The timing of Durant's return may have been coincidental; giving a veteran some time off and bringing him back just before the start of camp. Perhaps they were already planning to make that call before Wilson's arrest. In that case, a roster spot may have opened up for someone we're not so familiar with. Prospect John Lotulelei has been the most talked-about of the unknown linebackers.
While I have almost zero concern at this point for Elliott actually getting suspended, we have to mention the signing of Ronnie Hillman and the potential impact of something happening with Zeke. Some have tried to suggest that the Hillman signing was due to the Cowboys' concerns about losing Elliott to start the year.
I don't see that at all. I think adding Hillman has more to do with the departure of Lucky Whitehead; a speed player who can run some of the plays as Lucky and also provide you a kick return option. It's also related to the release of injured RB Jahad Thomas, who was a similar type of player. Hillman can give them some of what Lance Dunbar used to, which neither Alfred Morris or Rod Smith can offer.
If anyone would benefit from an Elliott suspension it's probably Morris. I don't see him sticking around as a third RB behind Zeke and Darren McFadden, but he could be more valuable if he'd the number-two back for a while. You can justify his lack of special teams ability in that case.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap
It's been just a week since NFL free agents could begin negotiating with other teams, but it feels like a lifetime for anxious Cowboys fans. Dallas' seemingly passive approach to 2019 free agency has left many disappointed. Still, there are some moves to recap.
As has become their strategy in recent years, the Cowboys have focused on filling up their depth chart and trying to avoid any glaring holes prior to next month's draft. They've re-signed several backups and added at least one likely rotation player.
It's still far too early to judge Dallas' activity. Comparing the 2019 roster to last year will depend heavily on the draft, growth from current players, and other factors. But with the "second wave" of free agency upon us, it's a good time to look at who's come, gone, and stuck around so far.
- TE Jason Witten (unretired)
- TE Codey McElroy (Rams)
- DT Christian Covington (Texans)
The biggest addition so far this offseason wasn't even a free agent, at least not in the purest sense of the term. Jason Witten's surprising return from retirement helped shore up one of Dallas' biggest needs, though it may not preclude them from drafting a tight end high in April.
Also at tight end, Dallas signed developmental project Codey McElroy. His experience is in baseball and basketball, having played just one year of college football. But at 6'6'" and 255 lbs., and having spent last year working with the Rams, the Cowboys must see something they're intrigued by.
Last week Dallas signed Christian Covington, who had 3.5 sacks for Houston in 2018 playing as a 3-4 defensive end. He should move to DT in the Cowboys' scheme and should be a solid addition to their rotation.
- WR Cole Beasley (Bills)
- TE Geoff Swaim (Jaguars)
- DL David Irving (shenanigans)
- LB Damien Wilson (Chiefs)
Beasley is heading to Buffalo on a four-year, $29 million deal. It appeared the relationship soured between Cole and Dallas over his playing time last year, and clearly the Cowboys didn't fight hard to keep him.
Damien Wilson followed Anthony Hitchens to Kansas City to help round out their linebacker corps. Once it was announced that Dallas was hanging on to Sean Lee in 2019, it was fairly certain that Wilson wouldn't be back.
Also not expected back was TE Geoff Swaim, who signed with Jacksonville. Even before Witten came back, Dallas appeared likely to stick with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz for returning talent and then add an upgrade via free agency or the draft.
While still a free agent, nobody expects David Irving back in Dallas or even the NFL after recent activities. Irving appears focused on a Hollywood career and advocating for medical marijuana use at this point.
- FB Jamize Olawale
- WR Tavon Austin
- WR Allen Hurns (team option)
- OT Cam Fleming
- G/C Joe Looney (team option)
- DE DeMarcus Lawrence (franchise tag)
- DT Daniel Ross (ERFA)
- LB Justin March-Lillard
- S Darian Thompson
While Dallas put the franchise tag on prized pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, his return in 2019 is far from settled. Lawrence has previously sworn he wouldn't play under a second franchise tag this year, and last we heard the two sides are far apart on a long-term deal. Could a holdout be on the horizon?
The Cowboys doubled-down on WR depth by re-signing Tavon Austin and exercising their team option on Allen Hurns' contract. Both are able to play out of the slot, meaning we could see more of a rotation approach to replacing Cole Beasley next year.
Dallas also re-signed fullback Jamize Olawale, which was a surprise given his low usage rate last year. Perhaps the change to Kellen Moore at offensive coordinator was behind this one, hoping to take better advantage of Olawale's receiving skills going forward.
Joe Looney and Cam Fleming will also be back as valuable backups on the offensive line. Looney started 16 games last year at center and also helps at guard, while Fleming will be the swing tackle once again for his second season in Dallas.
On defense, Dallas kept Daniel Ross in their DT rotation after solid performance in 2018. Justin March-Lillard return at linebacker, particularly for his value on special teams. And Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick by the Giants, is back as an ongoing developmental player.
~ ~ ~
If this is any indication, next week's recap may have a lot more to discuss.
REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Clayton Geathers Today
The Cowboys appear to be waking up in 2019 free agency. After a report earlier that they're meeting with WR Randall Cobb, now they're also visiting with Safety Clayton Geathers. He's spent the last four years with the Indianapolis Colts and was a starter and team captain in 2018.
Geathers missed four games last season with a neck injury but still had 89 tackles on the year. He has yet to get an interception since entering the league in 2015, but hasn't been a full-time starter for much of that time.
Free agent S Clayton Geathers is visiting the Cowboys today, per source. He was a team captain for the Colts last season, starting 12 games and recording 89 tackles.
At 6'2" and 220 lbs., Geathers is every bit of a strong safety. He is likely being considered to compete with Jeff Heath for the starting role and otherwise provide depth.
Clayton's rookie contract expired this year, making him available as a free agent. He turns 27 in June and was a fourth-round pick in 2015.
This is still just a visit and a signing is hardly guaranteed. But at the least, the Cowboys seem to be becoming far more active in this second wave of free agency.
REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent WR Randall Cobb Today
The Dallas Cowboys are hosting free agent Receiver Randall Cobb today at The Star, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Cobb has spent all eight of his NFL season thus far with the Green Bay Packers.
After losing Cole Beasley to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, and with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup entrenched as starters, Dallas must be considering Cobb to help them at slot receiver.
The Cowboys are hosting free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb at The Star today, according to a source. With the departure of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys are looking for help at slot receiver and Cobb can also play on the outside. In eight years in Green Bay, he had 470 catches...
This move is a bit surprising after Dallas chose to keep both Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns from last year. Both veterans are capable of playing out of the slot, as is Amari Cooper.
Cobb, however, may bring more upside. He's struggled injuries lately but was a key part of the Packers' offense for several years. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2014 with nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Turning 29 in August, Randall's contract expired in Green Bay and he remains a free agent. The Cowboys are likely hoping to replace Cole Beasley's skill set at a discounted price.
It's been a slow free agency period for Dallas thus far, and Randall Cobb wouldn't be a glamorous addition. However, any activity would make anxious Cowboys fans happy at this point.
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